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The outcasts from the caste fortress of campuses

The outcasts from the caste fortress of campuses

About a year and a half ago, a Member of Parliament from Kerala, V. Shivdasan raised a question in the Rajya Sabha to Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan about the number of students who had dropped out from the seven premier IITs of the country in the previous five years. The minister gave a detailed reply: 63 per cent of the dropouts were from reserved communities, two thirds of them being from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. These figures corroborate the familiar allegation that IITs, the country's best institutions of higher education, are also caste bastions of the highest order. Not just the IITs, most of the centres of higher education have almost completely turned to this state of affairs. Surviving these caste strongholds is not easy for Dalit, Adivasi and minority students in the current Indian political climate. That is why we frequently hear news of suicide of students belonging to this category. And now, after Rohit Vemula of the Central University of Hyderabad and Fatima Latif, a student of Madras IIT hailing from Kollam, another student has committed suicide due to caste discrimination. An -year-old Darshan Solanki, first-year B.Tech student of IIT Bombay and a native of Ahmedabad, committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor of the hostel on February 12. The very next day, Stephen Sunny, a research student at IIT Madras, ended his life in a similar manner. Following the incident, massive protests have erupted. Allegations of the protesters that the suicides were prompted by the discriminatory approach of the authorities towards students from socially backward sections cannot be easily dismissed, going by paste experience. In any case, the college authorities have declared investigations in both cases. And what the outcome of such investigations will be can also be guessed in the light of outcome of previous investigations.

One is prompted to recall these lines from the suicide note of Rohit Vemula, "I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write". Darshan had not prepared any such emotional note. However, as Vemula says in one of the notes, Darshan says by implication, "My birth is my fatal acciden". Darshan came to that college three months ago as a great hope of his native land and a family. But like any other backward student, he could not overcome the caste practices there. Often the biggest weapon used by the caste fanatics in their cruel pastime is the score card of the JEE exam. The survival of each student will depend on its 'merit'. Is there a better weapon to question the 'merit' of reserved category students? Those who lived with him vouch that Darshan Solanki was also a victim of the use that weapon. But the authorities would not admit to any of this. What's more, the Director's condolence message did not even mention the name of 'Darshan Solanki'. There has been no assurance from the authorities so far other than the routine promise that there will be an investigation.

In 2014, a Dalit student named Aniket was also killed in similar circumstances in the same campus. As a result of the legal battle by Aniket's parents, the 'SC-ST Students' Cell' was established to prevent such 'institutional murders' in the campus. But the recent incidents prove that that none of such mechanisms has ever worked efficiently. We have so much evidence of upper caste supremacy in the academic and administrative areas of IIT's. There are scores of people who have left the campus and ended their lives because they could not continue their studies in front of this upper class lobby. At least 40 people have committed suicide in Madras IIT in the last nine years. To be read with this is the statistic that in the last seven years, at least 4,000 students have dropped out of 23 IITs in the country. By and large it is very difficult for the backward classes even to get into such colleges. If at all anyone succeeds in breaking through the barbed wire fences of anti-reservation attitudes and gets there, what awaits him is such bitter experiences.This is nothing but another form of Hindutva's genocidal plan.

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TAGS:IIT's student suicides discrimination against backward castes SC/ST JEE score Rohit Vemula 
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